What is the best time of day to run?

Will running in the morning provide any extra benefits compared to training at any other time of day?

Blackmores’ Online Personal Trainer and Weight Loss Coach Andrew Cate weighs up the pros and cons.

The benefits of a morning run

Have you been told it’s best to run before breakfast? While making sure you fit in a run at any time of the day is the most important factor, there are certainly some advantages to working out in the morning. These benefits include:

  • It helps boosts your metabolic rate at the start of the day, before you’ve eaten.
  • It may help to regulate your appetite for the day.
  • It can increase the consistency of your exercise program, as you’ll be less likely to put off morning exercise for other interruptions.
  • It’s a real ‘pick me up’, and makes you feel energised for the rest of the day.
  • It sets a good precedent for the day, and builds the foundation for a positive mindset which can boost your desire to eat healthier.

The research

There has been some scientific research to highlight the advantages of running before breakfast. One study, published in The Journal of Physiology, found that running first thing in the morning can be beneficial.

For the study, subjects ate a high fat, high kilojoule diet for six weeks, and were divided into a control group, an exercise before breakfast group, and an exercise after breakfast group.

All three groups ate an identical amount of kilojoules (around 12,600 kilojoules), although the two exercise groups distributed their kilojoule intake differently.

Training sessions were also identical apart from the timing, and consisted of a combination of cycling and running exercise for 60 to 90 minutes.

Only the group who exercised before breakfast gained almost no weight and showed no signs of insulin resistance (a marker for poor blood sugar control which can be a pre-cursor to diabetes).

There was no significant difference in changes to exercise capacity in all three intervention groups.

More: Are you running too much?

While these results are interesting, it is important to note that the subjects ate a very high-kilojoule, high-fat diet, and more research is needed before knowing if the same effects would be seen if subjects ate a more “normal” diet.

Lifestyle implications and when to run

There appears to be considerable weight loss benefits that can be gained from performing your running training before breakfast.

However, research has shown that there may not be any additional benefits in terms of improved exercise capacity.

Ultimately, individual runners can use this information to judge for themselves the best time of day to exercise, in order to suit their training goals and circumstances.

On the one hand, runners who wish to shed body fat may benefit from training before breakfast. On the other hand, runners who wish to improve their speed and endurance may find training in a fed state more effective.

This may also involve ingesting kilojoules during longer runs, such as a sports drink.

In fact, if you run for an extended period (say more than 90 minutes), it’s likely you will be able to push yourself harder after consuming kilojoules, and you will get more physical rewards out of training.

There’s also nothing wrong with experimenting with different training techniques to see what impact it has on your results.

More: Foods to make you run faster

Why so many Australians are heading for the gym

WORKING up a sweat at the gym is the second most popular fitness activity for Australians – behind walking – a report suggests.

The latest snapshot into the fitness industry, the Australian Fitness Industry Report 2012, also shows most people go to their gym once or twice a week.

The typical client is a woman aged between 25 and 34.

Women also make up more than half of Australia’s 30,000 exercise professionals, who include personal trainers and group fitness instructors.

Those mostly taking up the career are in their 20s and 30s.

Fitness Australia chief executive Lauretta Stace said creating stronger links with the health sector would be a key topic of discussion at today’s Health and Fitness National Industry forum in Adelaide.

“If a doctor is wanting to prescribe exercise to help someone lose weight, what we’d like them to do is have links with local fitness clients, so they have a bit of an idea where to send people,” she said.

“We already have fitness professionals recommending clients see a doctor if they are concerned about anything, so in this instance, we’d like to increase the links to allied health and GPs.”

A love of gym classes led Pamela Blackwood to start a career as a group fitness instructor almost five years ago. “I migrated from the back row to the front as instructor,” said Ms Blackwood, who works at the North Adelaide Fitness Centre.

More than seven million people are expected to use gyms or personal trainers by 2020, up from four million now.

Dr Michael Gelb shares his tips for a healthy mind

MENS sana in corpore sano” is a Latin phrase coined 2500 years ago by Socratic priests.

But its meaning (a sound mind in a healthy body) is just as effective today, according to a leading US creativity and innovation expert.

Michael Gelb is set to visit Australia next week as part of the Mind & Its Potential conference in Sydney with his mantra: “Generate positive, creative change in daily life.”

And his recipe is relatively simple: eat well, exercise regularly and think positive.

“Our attitude affects our immune system on a moment to moment basis,” Gelb said “And our physical posture and facial expressions dramatically influence our moods.”

He recommends mindfulness and routine along with regular exercise to strengthen circulation and helps keep a flow of oxygen to the brain.
“Your brain is about 2 per cent of your body weight but it uses more than 20 per cent of your oxygen. Walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, yoga, weight-training and Tai Chi are all beneficial.  The key is to find something that you love and do it every day.”

Gelb also suggests a healthy diet and meditation.

“Meditation serves as a daily ‘tune-up’ for the mind and body,” Gelb said.  “It’s a very efficient way to gain the physiological benefits of concentrated rest (20 minutes of meditation offers the same benefits as three hours of restful sleep).

“Regular meditation also improves reaction time, memory, immune strength and most importantly ‘perceived well-being’. That’s a fancy way to say ‘happiness’.”

These are his top five tips

1. Embrace the notion that your brain is designed to improve with use

2. Devote a minimum of 15 minutes each day to learning something new.

3. Exercise every day

4.  Don’t eat anything that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

5. Meditate

Dance walking trend hits Toronto

Balancing her boom box on her shoulder, Susan Shapiro leads our dance walk group of 24 brave souls down St. Clair Ave. W. on a hot, lazy Sunday morning in June.

We get a few curious stares and lots of smiles as our group bougies down the sidewalk to Abba’s Dancing Queen.

Shapiro got the idea when she, along with 19 million others, saw a YouTube video of NBC reporter Ben Aaron dance walking for LXTV.

Aaron was taping a segment on 5th Ave. in New York this spring when he and his camera crew captured a man walking and dancing down the sidewalk. As Aaron says in his video, he “did what anyone would do,” and joined him. The anonymous dance walker (later revealed to be a man named Joseph, from Brooklyn) inspired Aaron to exercise in a whole new way.

As he says in the video, “It dawned on me. This guy combines three of my favourite things: interacting with people, seeing the city, and dancing. This could be the workout I was waiting for.” With his electric blue sneakers and an iPod strapped to his arm, the lovable 31 year-old hit the streets and talked groups of strangers into dance walking with him.

The video went viral within three months. It also spawned a dance walking craze around the globe, including Dance Walk Toronto.

“I thought the video looked like fun,” Shapiro says. “I contacted close friends to see if they’d participate and they said ‘yes,’ and a good number came out.”

It all came full circle June 8, when the group nabbed Aaron to shimmy down in Toronto.

On my walk with the group — sans Aaron — I felt more cornered than inspired. It’s one thing to get excited about a video; it’s quite another to throw humility to the winds and dance walk in front of all the neighbours. But Shapiro’s enthusiasm was infectious.

Next to me, Isabelle Faucher, struts her stuff while pushing her two-week-old daughter Eloise in a stroller. “I was intrigued — and I needed to get out of the house with my four-year-old son William,” she says, laughing. “It was fun. My son liked it, and I discovered that he has rhythm and he likes to dance!”

After 30 minutes of dance walking, I had worked up a sweat and a smile. Exercise should be fun and it was a great way to catch up with friends in the neighbourhood. Shapiro’s three children “had a blast and after they came home, that’s all they talked about for the rest of the day. I thought it would be fun and it was.”

Inspired? DanceWalk Toronto contact organizers Vivek Patel and Tree Walsh confirmed that the next walk is scheduled for Oct. 20, at noon, in partnership with the “Take a Walk on the Riverside” Festival. Enthused Patel, “It will probably be our biggest DanceWalk yet!”

Five fall superfoods

Fall is the perfect time to punch up your diet. The harvest season offers a bumper crop of delicious local produce, much of which is nutritionally dense, high in fibre and inexpensive, too. Embrace autumn’s bounty and kick-start your family menus with these dietitian-recommended superfoods.

Squash

Superpowers: “Squash is high in fibre, contains vitamin A, C, potassium, magnesium, and is tasty,” says Katie Antonutti, registered holistic nutritionist, of Toronto’s Nude Food Nutrition and Shape Health and Wellness Centres. And yellow and orange squash contain beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that may help protect the body against certain cancers.

How to enjoy them: Swap higher-calorie starchy food such as rice, potatoes and pasta for a serving of this high-nutrient, low-cal starch. Steam it, bake it, make a soup, or prepare it the way Antonutti does: quartered, brushed with butter, drizzled with maple syrup, dusted with salt, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, and then roasted in a 400F oven until golden brown.

Beets

Superpowers: “This root vegetable is rich in iron and potassium, and also contains niacin, vitamin C, folic acid and zinc,” says Antonutti. Weekend warriors, take note: A 2011 study by England’s University of Exeter, published in the medical journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, found that beet juice improved the athletic performance of competitive-level cyclists. The study suggests the nitrates in beet juice widen blood vessels, reduce blood pressure and allow more blood flow. In addition, they reduce the amount of oxygen needed by muscle tissue during activity.

How to enjoy them: This versatile vegetable can be eaten raw, juiced, steamed, roasted, or puréed into the classic borscht soup. Simplify beet prep by boiling whole beets until cooked, then bathing them in cold water: their skins will slide right off, which is much easier than peeling them raw.

Sweet Potatoes

Superpowers: “Sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, contain B vitamins, vitamin C, fibre and potassium, and are a great alternative to white potatoes because they’re a complex carbohydrate and do not spike your blood sugar,” says Antonutti.

How to enjoy them: Bake them in foil, make fries or hash browns, mash them, or slice them into wedges and then brush on some olive oil, roasting them with a dash of salt and paprika for extra kick. Leave the skins on to maximize their nutrients and fibre.

Apples

Superpowers: “Apples are a good source of fibre and are high in antioxidants. Eating apples is associated with a decreased risk of chronic disease including heart disease, asthma and some types of cancer. Apples are also high in soluble fibre, which can help regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol,” says Stefanie Senior, a registered dietitian at Athletic Edge Sports Medicine.

How to enjoy them: They’re perfect for snacking on. “A medium apple is just 72 calories, and can keep you full between meals, especially when eaten with a protein source for a complete snack. Eat it with nuts, low-fat cheese or yogurt,” says Senior. Whole apples provide fibre than applesauce.

Brussels sprouts

Superpowers: “Cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts are high in vitamin A, and also contain vitamin C, folic acid, fibre, potassium and iron,” says Antonutti.

How to enjoy them: Antonutti recommends baking them, chopping raw sprouts into a salad or steaming them (this maximizes their cholesterol-lowering benefits). Or elevate this humble peasant vegetable by halving each sprouts, then sautéing the batch in a cast-iron pan with chunks of thick-cut bacon.

Loblaw cuts 700 Toronto head office jobs

The decision by Loblaw Companies Limited to chop 700 jobs from the payroll in administration and at head office in Brampton on Tuesday was met with mixed reviews from analysts and investors.

After the announcement, shares rose 84 cents and closed at $34.72.

Loblaw has been upgrading its supply chain technology and infrastructure and while the job cuts may reflect greater efficiencies, Perry Caicco, managing director, CIBC World Markets, warned investors against applying the savings directly to the company’s bottom line.

“Notwithstanding that these job cuts probably reflect a demand from the parent company to generate some return on the outsized capital spending on

systems, it is highly unlikely that these actions will directly boost earnings,” wrote Caicco in a note to investors on Tuesday.

“The recent history of the company suggests that some of these job cuts will

be replaced by equally expensive outsourcing, and that the company will

struggle to re-assign eliminated roles in a productive fashion. In other words,

we believe the risk of poor head office execution and service to stores will be high for at least 12 months.”

Caicco said some portion of the cuts will likely reduce expenses, a necessity in light of the surge in growth in the grocery sector in Canada.

Walmart is in the midst of adding 4.6-million square feet of retail space to operations in Canada by the end of January 2013. More than half of the projects will involve supercentres providing a full range of groceries. Target will be selling groceries in stores opening in Canada next spring.

The family-owned Longo’s is also expanding in carefully selected prime locations in the GTA.

Loblaw Companies Limited is Canada’s largest food retailer, with more than 1,000 corporate and franchised stores, including Loblaws, Zehrs, T&T, Fortinos, Provigo, No Frills and the Real Canadian Superstore. The company employs about 138,000 full- and part-time workers.

In the past 12 months, Loblaws has opened 14 new stores across Canada, creating 2,000 new jobs.

The investment in infrastructure at Loblaw – trimming 250 separate systems down to something manageable – began in 2009.

“It’s a huge job, particularly when you’ve got to keep the old systems running to keep doing business. It’s like changing the engine on a car while the engine is still running,” said retail analyst Ed Strapagiel.

“This year, 2012, is when most of their system conversion takes place. There will likely be teething pains, so add a few months to work the bugs out. I think most professional stock analysts understand this. I think they think Loblaw is doing the right thing, but they would prefer to see it go faster.”

Kenric Tyghe, an analyst with Raymond James Securities told Bloomberg news he viewed the move positively.

“With their new systems capabilities, certain HR requirements are now redundant and hence the job cuts,” he said.

Vicente Trius, president, Loblaw Companies Ltd., broke the news to employees this morning, according to Loblaw spokesperson Julija Hunter.

The changes will take effect starting Tuesday and should be complete within three weeks. The company expects to take a one-time estimated $60 million charge in the fourth quarter as a result.

“We feel really confident in our direction,” Hunter said, adding that the job reductions will make the company more competitive, eliminate duplications and allow the firm to focus more on the customer experience.

“We’re managing costs where it makes sense.”

The transition will not be fully in place until the end of 2014.

Loblaw is a subsidiary of George Weston Ltd., which is sitting on $3.6-billion in cash. A spokesman for George Weston Ltd. said in September that the cash will be used in part to refresh its North American bakeries and Canadian Loblaw stores.

It’s also looking to make acquisitions.

Loblaw saw its profit drop 22 per cent in the first quarter of 2012. Second quarter net earnings per common share were 57 cents, down almost 19 per cent compared to the same period in 2011.

Syria Envoy Brahimi Warns Conflict Could Spread

CAIRO — The U.N.-Arab League special envoy for Syria said Wednesday that Syria’s civil war could spread across Middle Eastern borders into an “all-consuming conflict” unless the violence is eventually contained.

The veteran Algerian diplomat, who played a major role in negotiating an end to Lebanon’s civil war in 1989, said at a Beirut news conference that it is imperative a cease-fire be worked out in Syria.

Brahimi said it will be impossible to contain the crisis within Syria’s borders forever. Either the crisis will be stopped, he said, or it will get bigger and spread to other parts of the region.

Brahimi said Syrian opposition leaders had told him that they would “respond positively to any cease-fire announcement by the government,” and that he hoped to broker one before Islam’s upcoming Eid al-Adha festival.

He said other regional states, as well as the United Nations and the Arab League, have roles to play in brokering such a cease-fire, but that the Syrians themselves need to be the principal instigators.

Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said Syria is “waiting for Brahimi to come to Damascus” to assess the possibility, and “hopes he is bringing positive elements.” CNN reported that Brahimi is expected in Syria late Wednesday.

Analysts skeptical

Middle East analyst Timor Goksel, a former U.N. spokesman who teaches at the American University of Beirut, said he does not think Brahimi has a specific plan to end the crisis, but that he is sounding out the important players in the region.

“The only traction that will count in this whole thing is Iran and Russia and I don’t know what he got from those places,” Goksel said. “The others are not really important. The others are sort of touching base and hearing a general view, but what we have to look for is what he got, if anything, from Russia and Iran.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikail Bogdanov downplayed Brahimi’s mission during comments in Moscow Wednesday, saying that Brahimi did “not have any specific peace plan to resolve the conflict.”

Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami of the Hoover Institution in California said Brahimi is unlikely to achieve a breakthrough in the Syria conflict, any more than his predecessor, former secretary-general of the U.N. Kofi Annan.

Ajami said “there is nothing new in the diplomatic arena about Syria” and that the Syrian people “are on their own for the most part and know it.” He said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has “managed to defy the [world] powers” as well as NATO, and that the only factor that might change the equation is more forceful action “by the U.S., Turkey or the Arab states.”

Fighting in Syria continued Wednesday.

Rights groups said rebels shot down a Syrian military helicopter as troops fought to retake the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan along the Damascus-Aleppo highway.

The U.N. envoy’s visit to Beirut is the latest foray in what has been a marathon negotiating mission during the past week. That mission has taken him to Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt and now Lebanon.

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart—the Best of Their Reunion Pics!

Did anyone really think Robsten wouldn’t survive a little cheating scandal?

Of course not. Since word of their much-anticipated reconciliation broke this week, the Twilight twosome seemed to go out of their way to publicly flaunt their reunion. Yep, Christmas came early for the Twi-hards.

Rob and Kristen back together—on Breaking Dawn Part 2 poster!

So, in celebration of their momentous recoupling, we’ve rounded up the best pics of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart getting back together.

The first sighting, of course, came Saturday night, when R.Pattz and K.Stew hit up a friend’s birthday party together at Chateau Marmont. On Sunday, they were back together at Ye Rustic Inn in Los Feliz.

Rob and Kristen move past cheating scandal—but not quite ready for PDA

And by Monday, wearing similar baseball caps, Robsten headed to lunch together with some pals in Hollywood.

The Rob and Kristen road to reconciliation has been a process over these past few months.

Check out Robsten’s road to reconciliation timeline

A source told E! News, however, that Rob “decided to forgive her. He’s justifying it by believing her story that it was a one off mistake and will never happen again.”

On behalf of Twi-hards everywhere, we certainly hope he’s right.

Lance Armstrong steps down as head of foundation, gets dropped by Nike

In his first acknowledgment that his personal brand has been damaged by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s voluminous account of what it characterized as “serial cheating” throughout his cycling career, Lance Armstrong resigned as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation he created to help cancer patients, he announced Wednesday.

And in a further blow to Armstrong’s reputation, longtime corporate sponsor Nike announced it was terminating its contract with Armstrongbut would continue supporting the Livestrong initiatives.Nike is the foundation’s most substantial corporate partner, marketing a line of athletic apparel and equipment that bears the Livestrong brand. Nike was also the creative mind behind the wildly popular Livestrong wristbands that since 2004 have generated roughly $80 million in proceeds.

Those associations will continue, as least for now. But Armstrong himself will no longer be compensated as a Nike athlete in the wake of USADA’s scathing report, his public personae deemed too tainted even for a company that has remained loyal to, and in some cases cultivated associations with, athletes with controversial images.

USADA’s 202-page report, which was backed by more than 1,000 pages of supporting documents and testimony and made public Oct. 10, asserted that Armstrong achieved all of his record seven Tour de France championships “start to finish” through doping. It relied on the testimony of 26 witness, including 11 of Armstrong’s former teammates. And it included detailed, first-hand accounts of Armstrong not only taking banned substances such as EPO and undergoing blood transfusion but also pressuring teammates on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team to dope, as well, and threatening those in position to testify against him.

After initially reiterating its support of Armstrong, Nike reversed course and severed ties with the athlete Wednesday — one week after the report’s public airing.

“Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him,” Nike’s statement read.

In announcing he was stepping down as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation, which last week claimed that donations increased after USADA on Aug. 24 stripped Armstrong of his Tour de France titles and banned him from the sport, Armstrong noted the organization’s global reach and effectiveness in helping roughly 2.5 million people affected by cancer.

But, he noted, he had decided “to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career” by stepping down as the foundation’s chairman, ceding the role to vice chairman Jeff Garvey.

Armstrong, 41, won all seven of his Tour de France titles after surviving his own battle against testicular cancer.

According to crisis management specialist Ashley McCown, the USADA report was simply too damning for Armstrong’s association with either Nike or his foundation to continue.

Stifled West Bank economy drains Palestinians’ hopes

Market vendors at a stall in Hebron Old City

Passers-by linger in front of the window displays on a main shopping street in central Hebron but seem reluctant to enter the stores. In the old market, vendors call out their wares but are largely ignored.

The city is the largest in the West Bank and a major commercial and industrial hub, accounting for about one third of the West Bank’s GDP. Recently it was also the scene of some of the worst violence during Palestinian economic protests.

Locals blame the discontent on high unemployment, low wages and the rising cost of living as well as the heavy burden of consumer debt.

“Our economy depends 100% on customers and as you can see, now the customers have no money,” says Ayman, a tour guide.

As the global recession plays out, the Palestinians are not alone in facing such woes. Yet, as a recent World Bank report highlighted, there are some unique factors that also hurt their economy.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) relies on international aid but has seen a recent shortfall in donor funding, the World Bank says, while the Israeli occupation of the West Bank sets obstacles that “constrain investment, raise costs and hinder economic cohesion”.

Worryingly for the international community, committed to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, there are now many ordinary Palestinians who conclude that the 1993 Oslo Accords should be scrapped.

“We need to go back 20 or 25 years before Oslo. The basic rules of this commitment are so bad for the Palestinian people,” says Amr, who runs a market-stall in Hebron.

Settlement growth

The interim peace agreement produced the current zoning of the West Bank where the main Palestinian urban areas are under the administrative and security control of the PA, but 62%, known as Area C, remains under full Israeli control.

Protests in Hebron
Economic protests in Hebron last month were some of the largest in the West Bank

Jewish settlements have rapidly expanded in Area C in the two decades since the Oslo Accords were signed. The World Bank warns that this restricts the fertile land and water available to Palestinians.

In Hebron, there is also an Israeli military presence to protect about 500 settlers who live inside the city. A survey by Israeli human rights groups in 2007 found that in the area they occupy over 1,800 businesses and warehouses had closed since the start of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. This was due to movement restrictions and some military orders.

“The Old City has been badly affected because of clashes and the Israeli soldiers coming overnight. Many people have moved out because they don’t feel safe,” says Omar al-Hroub, owner of a jewellery store.

The local governor, Kamal Ahmed is not surprised that Hebron residents have been venting their frustration.

“When we signed the Oslo Agreement we promised many things – freedom, ending the occupation, an independent state and a very good economic situation. It was supposed to take five years, but nothing happened,” he says. “For this reason they are angry.”